I went to the St. James Gate Brewery and the Guinness Storehouse. Now, personally, I think the tour was a little on the pricey side. You got to see how they make Guinness Draught Stout. The one really cool thing is that during the tour you get to taste Guinness that has not been through the secondary fermentation (“unconditioned”). You can taste the amount of flavor that the conditioning adds to the so-called “mild” beer. Afterwards, we were treated to the Guinness Storehouse annual St. Patrick’s Day festival. This involved all the Guinness you can drink, learning to pour the perfect pint of Guinness yourself (which may be available all the time, I’m not sure), and tasting random dishes like Guinness-bread with salmon, some dish based on Guinness sour cream, and so on. Not too much needs to be said on the brew itself. If you don’t know what Guinness tastes like, you should. It’s quite a heavy beer that reminds me of coffee with a bare hint of sweetness and a fair bit of bitter. An Irishman informed me that the whole “perfect pour” thing promoted by Guinness is a load of tosh (surprise! surprise!), but that there is one surefire way of knowing a good pint: Hold your glass up to the light, and if any regions appear brown or red, or anything other than flat black, you should order something else for your next round.
I also went to the Old Jameson Distillery. The distillery tour was even pricier than the Guinness tour, and shorter. However, I think from a functional point of view, it was a much more informative tour. They show you the process of fermenting the mash, distilling it in pot stills, and aging it. The aging was the most interesting as they displayed barrels that were aging Jameson at one, three, five, ten, and eighteen years. You can see the angel’s share (almost 50% for the eldest cask), and how the color changes, and also how the color is leached from the wood. Then we got to taste. Some members of our tour were given the opportunity to do a tutored comparative tasting of several products of Irish Distillers. The traditional drink of Irishmen (nope, it’s not Guinness) is whiskey. Unlike their neighbors to the east, they spell it with an “e.” This is a surprisingly good whiskey, given its price point. Sipping it neat, on the rocks, or with a little water was a completely inoffensive experience, despite the fact that this dram is a lot younger than anything any single malt Scotch whisky drinker would ever consent to putting in his or her body. As to how it tastes, well, let’s just say it was a nice, complex whiskey, and I may have had a few too many drams for anything more sophisticated than that.
Lastly, we went to the St. Patrick’s Day festivities in the city center. There was a fun parade, though I saw far too many American marching bands for my preference (including the Fighting Illini!). Afterwards we went to the Irish Folk Music and Dance festival where we learned Irish dancing. We stopped in a number of bars, including the Palace, the Temple Bar, and Dublin’s oldest pub, the Brazen Head. However, the highlight was a little pub on Thomas Street known as Nash’s. If you have the opportunity, I would definitely stop in there for a bit of honest “craic.” Unlike the other pubs we visited in Dublin, where the only Irishman in the place was the publican, at Nash’s, the only ones in the pub who weren’t locals was us. There was a lot of singing. They’d sing us their songs, and then make us sing them ours. Unfortunately, coming from all over the wold, we didn’t have too many of our own songs to sing them, but it was still good fun.
And on that note, I take my leave. Next up: A review of some cider.